Monday, August 31, 2009

Highlight: The Achilles Track Club

I was talking with a good friend of mine from the 4K, Tom, about his mutual job search escapades. Not only did he do the 4K twice (2007 and 2009) but he was also the director this second time around. Anyway, he was telling me about this great organization that he is looking to get involved in, called The Achilles Track Club. He

Friday, August 28, 2009

Recycle your Inner Tubes

(photo courtesy of:

Bicycle inner tube notebook! Another cute find I saw during my internet excursions amidst apartment hunting and (temporary) unemployment. You can order it at

...God, I need to start working soon.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The City is Calling

Okay. New plan. Doylestown is out and Baltimore, YOU'RE IN!!

After spending long, drawn out hours contemplating my future (48 hours to be exact) I decided that Doylestown isn't the place for me. As enticing as it would be to pay $0 in rent and save a bucket load of money in no time fast, I'm itching for the city. Financial sacrifices will be made, and I can see myself reverting back to the days of purchasing only generic brands and shopping more often at the thrift stores. However, when you can walk just about any place (or take cheap/free public transportation), have friends at every hour of the day to visit and relax with, or just your choice of museums to sporadically pop into during your downtime, why would you NOT choose the City that Reads?

That being said, I am currently looking for apartments in the Baltimore City/Charles Village area. If you are a relatively clean and personable individual looking for an apartment mate, hit me up!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Highlight: The Sartorialist loves BIKES!

(photo courtesy of The Sartorialist)

Okay, so they're not sporting carbon frames and sweet handlebar tape...or helmets for that matter. However, the new series of bicycle photographs on The Sartorialist are too cute to ignore.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Finding Comfort in the Crazy

Author and superathlete, Chris McDougall, has just published his most recent book, Born to Run. I commonly promote books that I have yet to read, however, as I was driving into Princeton today in my endless search for employment, I was listening to Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane on NPR. She was profiling McDougall's new book and talking with him about his adventures off the map. It immediately gave me goosebumps to hear this professional athlete and published author discuss his love for a sport and, for that matter, a culture, that involved absolutely NO competition. Enter the 4K mentality that our team had lived and breathed throughout these past couple months. After recently talking with my friend Raffi, who is now living in California and cycling with category ONE cyclists, we both realized the intensity that is injected into the sport and the culture that has been nurtured by those who are more concerned about sprinting up a hill faster than they did yesterday than noticing the snow-capped mountain right in front of them.

As both a runner (only temporarily out of commission) and a cyclist, I have constantly struggled with the culture to win. With this culture comes a huge industry of methods and gear that promote easier ways to run and bike. For example, as McDougall points out in his interview with Moss-Coane, there is no need for these fancy-schmancy running shoes that hit the shelves every season. Believe it or not, there is a much more natural way of running: barefoot. Despite the intrepid fear of being stabbed by a nail or two lying in the road, barefoot running has been proven as the most natural form of running and is the most successful method of maintaining proper body mechanics while hitting the pavement.

For me, the same issues may be occuring in the cycling world nowadays. Granted, I own a bike with a carbon fork and a specialized woman's seat, but in the way of "road shoes vs. mountain shoes" and CO2 pumps that weigh lighter than a frame pump I could care less. Not to brag, but along with 26 other AMATEUR cyclists, I biked across the entire continent on a less-than-spectacular bicycle (frame pump and clunky mountain shoes included) and I made it to San Francisco. I dunked my damn bike into the Pacific Ocean, for Christ's sake! It still runs to this day (minus a slightly broken bike computer...but who needs that high-tech shit anyways?) and I am not all-that-far behind my Dad, who has been cycling on a $5,000+ Serotta.

My point? People need to get back to the nature and beauty of where a sport originated from. (No, I will not use Lance Armstrong's over-used phrase.) It's not about the competition or the incessant desire for more advanced, light-weight gear. It's not about perfectly-wound handlebar tape, cushiony running sneakers or computers that calculate your time, distance, mph, rpm, heart rate, outside temperature, etc. It's about the love and the ecsatsy that floods your system as soon as you begin to move. When I bike or run, it's my time to think and clear my head. It's that rare hour or three hours where my mind and my body are so in sync that they fuse together in one continuous motion.

This orgasm of sorts is polluted when it's injected with all that excess and the added desire to win. Sure, it's fun to hit 40 mph going down a steep downhill, and it's exhilerating to hit your max speed on an uphill with your more-advanced friend. You suddenly realize how much more capable you are at the thing you love. It's a two-fer. However, when that becomes a constant state of mind, it can be detrimental. You give up the gift of adventure that our modern human bodies are so hesistant to lay before us. You can bike 30 miles a day, every day for the next 5 months, lose a good amount of weight and gain some pretty sexy looking quad muscles. But will you feel like you've transcended space and time? Have you climbed a mountain in every time zone of the country? Have you come upon a hidden tribe in the middle of the Copper Canyons?

It is just my personal preference, but if I had the choice, I would rather experience the unexperienced.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Shout Out Across the Globe

ANNOUNCEMENT: My dear friend (and an avid cyclist!), Sharlene Su, is making her way to the other side of the globe to study Chinese language and acupuncture for the next few months! Best of luck to you, my love.
*If you'd like to check out her blog, click here and keep up with her on her journey.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Imagine This...

Badwater Ultramarathon

Life Afterwards

One word: Boring.

After cycling across the country, my days are never full. Productivity is overrated when I seem to be in the same place I was yesterday. Life is a constant state of lethargy.

Therefore, I've decided that the best solution to this ill existence is to start planning for the next adventure. With my destination unknown, I've decided to travel abroad in January of 2010, return for a brief time, and then make my way to South America for another cycling expedition...grad school will fit in somewhere. Don't call me crazy yet, since none of this is near finalized and I fully acknowledge the fact that money doesn't grow on trees, especially when the reality of college loans is pulling me back to earth. However, something I have learned is that money does exist in unexpected places. Hopefully, with the assistance of grants and yet-to-be discovered funding, I will be able to go places and do work I've been craving after for so long.

Until then, I'm here in Pennsylvania. I know I tend to make somewhat sweeping generalizations when I talk about my hometown, particularly the fact that I feel I can narrow the population down to mostly white, upper class teenagers and young adults who are living off of their parents while they skate through life as part-time baristas. (Again, a sweeping generalization...although, my accuracy at times amazes me.) Therefore, while I spend the next few months in limbo, I'm relying on my future to get me through the present, and of course a bit o' cycling.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Photo Essay: California Cuisine

Besides the golden hills that scatter the northeastern landscape, another mouth-gaping California characteristic is the rich color and freshness that their foods exude. Riding into Stockton, CA, we came upon a farm stand with fresh, locally grown fruit. Even riding along the road, there were screaming-red tomatoes littered along the gravel. These proved to be more enjoyable than annoying as we tried to squish as many as possible with our bikes, splashing juice all over our legs. Even Rob was giggling like a little girl as he competed with Nicole to smush the fallen fruit along the way.

E-A and I couldn't help but laugh at the "Cyclist Special" in one of Mill Valley's many local cafes...

...This is much more like it. C'mon! You've got to pack in those necessary 5,000 calories somehow.

During my stay in San Francisco, I could not get enough baked goods and local cuisine. California (and the Bay area in particular) is renowned for its focus on locally-grown foods and healthy options. That isn't to say that there wasn't a substantial amount of sweet goodies to fulfill the remnants of my 4K appetite...
A Russian bakery nearby had these delicious almond horns. Similar to an Italian cannoli, they are a cylindrical pastry with a cream filling. However, the outside is an almond-based crust. To top it all off, the shell is dipped in a thick, dark chocolate at both ends, leaving you wanting more at the last bite.

(above) Almond Horn

While exploring Berkeley, we came upon this sign and couldn't help cracking up.

Thanks to my friend Juhee's strong suggestion (and subsequent gift certificate) we had a tres fancy dinner at Chez Panisse, a restaurant that is famous for its ever-changing menu based on the day's available local produce and its upscale following. Reservations are usually made 2 months in advance and customers are "conveniently placed" throughout the restaurant based on their attire. The upstairs cafe is more casual in comparison to the downstairs dining room, which requires men to wear a jacket and tie. However, the service was impeccable and the food was noticeably the freshest I've ever had the opportunity to indulge in. Alice Waters, the restaurant owner, is careful to make sure EVERYTHING is local and 100% organic, to the extent that she picks the vegetables from her own garden! Even the dinnerware is made nearby in Sausalito, CA.

(above) Fig, Walnut and Goat Cheese Salad. This is definitely something to try and doesn't take a whole lot of talent to make.

While we were waiting to be seated, a woman walked in and asked for a seat. The host had to graciously decline her request, explaining that all the tables were taken. At the moment, most tables were actually uninhabited, but would fill up quickly in the next 15 minutes with reserved parties. After several minutes, the woman gave up and proceeded to walk over to the bar to order a glass of champagne. She then tipped the bottom of the glass heavenward and took a huge gulp, emptying the glass and then slamming it onto the bar.

(above) Fruit Tart and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

(above) Mulberry Sherbert and Biscotti

(above) wood fire oven at Chez Panisse

On our final day in San Francisco, we wanted to live it up and gorge on as much as that's exactly what we did. For brunch we went to Dottie's True Blue Cafe. Another famous spot reviewed on the Food Network, Dottie's is a pretty small space located a few blocks away from Union Square. We waited in a line that snaked out the door and down the block. It was well worth it. Unlike other restaurants whose owners have made a name for themselves on big name TV networks, the owner of Dottie's was working the grill and filling orders while we were there!

iSpy a teacup and teapot chandelier.

(above) The owner working the grill...the one in the red shirt

(above) Our breakfast smorgasbord....note the dish in the far left: eggs, onions, tomatoes and peppers SMOTHERED in fresh avocado. When all the plates arrived we said, "Oh no. We're going to have so many leftovers." After damages, we took home one pancake and a quarter of the eggs.

I spotted this wine in BevMo and since I had no money left at the end of this trip, I just took a picture. Wine and bikes...what more could you ask for?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Photo Essay: Love in a Time of Cycling

Here are a few shots of the final day of the 4K. Words are difficult to find, but I'm sure you'll find plenty of emotion to give you a sense of how the day went...

The NFP (No Fun Police) our intern at headquarters

Tan lines sneaking out from beneath the spandex.

The Pacific!

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Palm Tree

One of my 4K teammates, Kate, rode this summer in honor of Johnny, a close family friend who passed away from cancer and had a wife and daughters. During a vacation, he was the only one to immediately point out a palm tree along the road. "Look! A palm tree! I've never seen a palm tree before." After his death, Johnny was remembered for the beauty that he saw in the slightest of things.

During one of our rides through the Valley, Kate was having a particularly difficult day. Despite the widespread hesitancy to return to "real life," we were all pretty anxious for our arrival into San Francisco, and an eighty-some mile day could seem like over a century at this point.
As her team was riding down the road, Kate spotted a palm tree for the first time on the trip and without thinking about it she pointed the plant out to her team. "Hey look guys, a palm tree!" Diana then responded with, "Oh my gosh, I've never seen a palm tree before!"

Kate- Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

On the Road, no longer.

Yesterday the 4K team made the big splash (literally) into the Pacific Ocean after crossing the entire country on two wheels. I think we were in such awe and shock that tears were impossible. However, after a nice celebratory dinner at Fishermen's Warf, the feeling is bittersweet. The saltwater and sand that was the last of our 63-day 4,000 miles' worth of filth has been washed down the drain and into the San Francisco Bay, only leaving our blaring tan lines and the loneliness of our feet without pedals supporting them from underneath.
Waking up minus 26 other people at my side was bizarre and an unimaginable scenario until now. Although the trip took us to a different place every day, there was still a strong sense of continuity within the "four" chaos. Each morning we circled up and made our dedications, chanted the cheer and found teams for the day. We then took the day 20 miles at a time (sometimes one pedal stroke at a time) and kept it that way until our next host where we again met up and feasted on whatever food was available. From peanut butter to canned chickpeas, no food supply was left unscathed. To a non-4K-er, a bottle of leftover pickle juice is meant to be thrown down the drain, while to others it is a ceremonial drink that is consumed while tackling a mountain in Escalante...only to be puked back up.

Of the entire journey, the desert (Utah and Nevada) was probably where we made or most memorable of connections between teammates. With little food, water and people in sight, it was really up to us to keep each other going. I don't think we realized at the time, but looking back, there was not one day where we went without a ridiculous amount of laughter...and sometimes tears.

Dedications and stories could make me crumble like a cookie left at the bottom of a 4K food bin....especially at our last pow wow on the California coast when the fog was rolling in and one of our team members, Kate, recalled a story that led us all to tears. She told us about the family friend whom she had been riding for all summer, Johnny, and the story of his ability to observe beauty in the simplest of things. (see post titled, "Palm Tree") At this moment, I think we all came to the realization that the end was near and this alternative lifestyle we had been living with a family of 27 best friends was at its end.

Sitting in a bed* 24 hours later, I cannot see the next few days without the endless laughter and companionship that was such a gift over the past 2 months. The patience and love we all cultivated for each other was probably the most surprising of lessons learned over the course of the trip. I think we all came out on the other end with different reasons for taking this journey, while also maintaining our original purpose and dedications.

(On a more personal note) I began this trip in honor of my Aunt Bev and in memory of my high school friend's father who passed away from pancreatic cancer a couple years ago. His sudden death and the immediate whirlwind of changes that she encountered in her life was enough to knock the air out of me. It was a time of realization that life is beautiful and brief and if we are to ever take advantage of our time on this earth it has to be now, at this very moment. I've once again stood up with a dizzying feeling that there is so much to know and understand. There are risks that cannot be avoided in order to obtain fulfillment, and with those risks come unexpected twists and turns that lead you to the most remarkable of places and people.

The biggest of hugs to twenty-six strangers that became family. I love you tremendously.

*note: beds were a rare and wonderful occurrence on the 4K. I have yet to unravel my sleeping bag and air out the desert stink.